Home | Contact us | Welsh flag Cymraeg

Restoring the link between people and woodlands

Connect to nature with Coed Lleol during lockdown

Laptop set up to run an online nature session

Connecting to nature isn’t usually something we do via a laptop screen. During lockdown however, we’ve all had to adapt quickly and find different ways of getting the things we need for our health and wellbeing. It hasn’t been possible for Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) to keep running our wide range of wellbeing activities in woodlands, helping people all over Wales to connect to nature. Instead, we’ve gone online, offering support in a number of new ways.

Our Online Nature Sessions are happening live every weekday on Zoom. Each session has a different theme, from Foraging to Mindfulness. They’re free and aimed at people with health and wellbeing needs in Wales.

We’ve launched a new YouTube channel to share weekly nature videos made by our expert Woodland Leaders and Mentors. In our first video you can learn how to make tasty Nettle Crisps. Be sure to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss anything.

On our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages we’re sharing daily #NatureFix posts – photos of trees and plants from around Machynlleth where our Publicity Coordinator takes her daily walks. This has been especially appreciated by people living in urban areas who haven’t been able to get out into nature during lockdown. Follow us on social media to get your daily nature fix.

Our local project groups across Wales have moved outdoor nature sessions online, meeting together virtually for inspiring nature activities and discussions. Contact a Woodland Mentor in your area to join us.

We’ve been offering one-to-one Nature Chats by phone to our existing participants who are struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness during this time

We’ve also been supporting a volunteer group in Mid Wales called Heart Mind Body to get the word out about their free online wellbeing activities (including yoga, singing and chi gong).

We all miss being in the woods together, but in the meantime we’ll keep working on these alternative ways of helping you connect to nature.

For more information email Mim (miriamdavies@coedlleol.org.uk) or get in touch on social media.

Facebook: @coedlleol
Twitter: @Actifwoodswales
Instagram: @coed_lleol
YouTube: Coed Lleol – Small Woods Wales

How Gareth, a Merthyr Tydfil resident, uses nature to help his mood

During lockdown we’ve been asking people in Wales and beyond about how they’re using nature to improve their wellbeing. Gareth from Merthyr Tydfil has shared with us the beautiful walks he’s been taking, as well as some great photos of what he sees along the way.

My name is Gareth. I’m currently living in Merthyr Tydfil but I’m originally from North West England.

For me nature is an escape, especially in these uncertain times. From where I am now there are two different very different walks that I take. First, there’s the Taf Fechan Nature Reserve which follows alongside the river through a narrow valley. This is my favourite place. I walk through here and everything else just vanishes from my mind. I lose myself in the sounds of the river, the breeze blowing through the trees and the songs of the local bird life.

Once I reach the far end of the reserve I cross over the narrow road bridge to enter the other side. Growing in the small bits of soil between the rocks down by the waterfall is Wild Garlic. It’s a recent discovery for me but it’s one that pleased me nonetheless. It’s from here that I start my journey down the other side of the reserve. It’s almost like it’s a different place to the side you walk up. Whilst the eastern side clings more to the cliffs and the river, this side consists of open fields that lead down to the river and eventually gives way to narrow pathways that lead through the wood before crossing over the wooden bridge back to where I started. It really is my favourite place. It’s my escape from everything that is going on in the world.

The other one is up to Morlais Castle which is a bit different to the Taf Fechan walk. It’s one that I’ve only recently started doing but the effects are similar. Once you get within the shadow of the castle it’s all uphill. Following the trail between the Blackthorns and along the top of the cliff face until you reach the castle. They call it a castle, it’s actually just the foundations, a crypt and part of the moat that is left, but the feeling of being up there is no less stunning. The views are breathtaking. To the north you can see the Beacons, Pen-y-Fan and Cribbyn being the most prominent mountains that you can see. To the south you can see down over Prince Charles Hospital and the Gurnos Estate and, on a clear day with little pollution, right down the Taff valley. To the west is the Cilsnws and the Cwm Darren mountain. It’s always good to just sit down at the time to get your breathe back and take in the views. There’s usually Pied Wagtails chasing each other and some Ravens and Carrion Crows hanging around but occasionally you might get lucky and see a Red Kite or two drifting along the airwaves looking for prey. I don’t think I need to tell you how good that makes you feel 😊

We’d love to hear how you are using nature to improve your wellbeing during lockdown. Get in touch with me by email (miriamdavies@coedlleol.org.uk) and follow us on social media.

Can’t get out into nature at the moment? Let nature come to you with our free online nature sessions. Click here to find out more.

Facebook: @coedlleol
Twitter: @Actifwoodswales
Instagram: @coed_lleol


Coed Lleol featured by Public Health Network Cymru

The April edition of the Public Health Network Cymru bulletin focussed on how the health and well-being of individuals and communities is being supported and sustained through lock-down. Coed Lleol was featured in this edition of the bulletin as we are working through lock-down to support people remotely all over Wales, including via video and telephone sessions.

You can read the Public Health Network Cymru bulletin in English, here. Ac yn Gymraeg, yma. 


Meet Mim, our new Publicity Coordinator

Mim Davies Coed Lleol's new publicity coordinator

S’mae pawb! My name’s Mim Davies and I’m stepping in as Publicity Coordinator for Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) while Sophia Perkins is away on maternity leave.

A lockdown is a strange time to start a new job (so far I’ve only been able to meet my lovely new colleagues over video calls!) but I’m excited about supporting Coed Lleol to reach out about the great work they do connecting people to nature, something that feels more important than ever.

I’ll be posting photos from my daily walks in the countryside around Machynlleth on social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and talking to people about how they’re using nature to improve their wellbeing during lockdown. As well as this, I’ll be helping to get the word out about all the amazing support and activities that Coed Lleol will be offering remotely to help you get your nature fix during this challenging time.

A bit about me: I moved to Mid Wales five years ago to work at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. Since then I’ve worked at Community Action Machynlleth and District and volunteered with the Aberystwyth branch of the Samaritans. The ways I enjoy connecting to nature include wild swimming in rivers (last year I swam outdoors every day in January) and walking sections of the Wales Coastal Path whenever I can. I’m especially fond of being around beech trees.

I’m looking forward to being able to travel around Wales to visit Coed Lleol projects in the future.

Get in touch with me by email (miriamdavies@coedlleol.org.uk) and follow us on social media.

Facebook: @coedlleol
Twitter: @Actifwoodswales
Instagram: @coed_lleol

How Susan, a Health Worker, uses nature to help her during lockdown

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. It is unsurprising that there are reports of increasing mental health problems, most likely exacerbated by the unusual pressures the COVID-19 outbreak is putting on our society. Now more than ever, people are reaching out to nature to provide comfort and joy – even David Attenborough agrees! When speaking to the Big Issue magazine he said:

“In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace. The natural world produces the comfort that can come from nothing else. And we are part of the natural world.”

As nature lovers we, at Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales), thought it would be interesting to check in with different people to see how they are using nature to improve their wellbeing in these unusual times. We’d love to hear from YOU! Please get in touch on our social media (links at the bottom of the post) or by emailing sophiaperkins@smallwoods.org.uk All you need to do is send in a photo, a description of what you do in nature and how it helps!

To get us started, we spoke to Susan, a Health Worker living in France and working on the frontline, caring for people with the coronavirus. Big thanks to Susan for contributing but also all the fantastic work you are doing. Over to Susan:

Hello there,

My name is Susan and I’m a healthcare worker originally from London but now living in a small village in Haute Savoie in the French Alps. 

Sometimes in my job it is difficult to tell the difference between being stressed and being busy. Taking 30 minutes just to be surrounded by an ancient environment that exists outside of my priorities, helps me to separate what is stressing me out from what is making me busy and gives me the perspective to find a way to deal with both positively. Side note: 9.5 times out of 10 it turns out I’m just busy. But I would never have known!

It’s easy in the Alps to see the terrain as a challenge, as something to test yourself against. But I find that walking the same wooded path everyday with no goal in mind (except successfully returning to the house with both dogs) is not only calming but also hopeful. You notice little things: leaves changing colour, flowers starting to bloom, the speed of the river, a deer footprint. And these things show you that what ever is going on in your life, there is always something to look forward to, there is always something that will change, there is always something that says no matter what you’re experiencing, there is beauty in this world that you are an important part of.’


Thanks Susan! We’ve love to hear from you, please get in touch: sophiaperkins@smallwoods.org.uk




Coed Lleol Online Resources


In March 2020 we find ourselves in highly unusual times. At Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) we connect people and nature through a variety of woodland wellbeing sessions. These nature based sessions can often provide solace, nurture, fun, social connection and an opportunity to laugh!  Due to safety concerns and government advice, we are having to postpone many of our Woodland based sessions. We would like to reassure our participants that Coed Lleol are working hard to deliver nature based projects in new and numerous ways – we will still be there to provide support and help in maintaining your well-being.

Shortly, we will be uploading a wide variety of online resources including toolkits, videos and well-being packs to connect with our participants and invite new people to join our community. We are working on these resources and hope to make them available very soon. If there is a particular resource you would like to use, please let us know (email sophiaperkins@smallwoods.org.uk) or your local woodland mentor – we will do our best to facilitate your request.

In the meantime, keep an eye on our social media channels for tips, ideas and resources to assist in wellbeing through the COVID-19 incubation period.

Keep in touch (virtually) and look after yourselves.

The Coed Lleol Team

Facebook: @coedlleol

Twitter: @Actifwoodswales

Instagram: @coed_lleol

Fresh Faces in Actif Woods Wales


At Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) we have expanded our target audience within the Actif Woods Wales programme to include families in areas of deprivation, as well as adults suffering from physical health and mental issues by working with our new funders Healthy & Active. After all, nature should be available to everyone!

Over the summer Cath Cave ran her first sessions for families in Aberystwyth (Ceredigion), teaming up with Flying Start (a Welsh Government programme, helping children get the best start in life) and the Red Cross (who are supporting Syrian Refugees in Wales).

The Family Woodland Programme was a series of 6 events, held weekly. It included lots of woodland craft activities and plenty of games under the woodland canopy. Youngsters learnt how to light fires, made fairy crowns, dream catchers and even bows and arrows! There were plenty of games too, with Nature Bingo & treasure hunts proving popular. Children helped to cook a campfire lunch (provided by Aber Food Surplus), they made drop scones and toasted marshmallows. The activities weren’t just limited to the children though, plenty of parents took part too. With over 60 attendees – we can see why the sessions were popular! The sessions were filled with fun but rest and relaxation too, as families got to socialise in the beautiful setting of the local School’s Woodland Garden.

At Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) we are inspired by the success of events led by Cath at Active Woods Aberystwyth. What a fantastic new opportunity we have to connect young people with nature. In William Bird’s report for the RSPB ‘Natural Thinking’, he states that children need to experience a connection to nature through play to develop a long-standing connection to, and value of, nature as an adult. Sessions like these may be a small, but crucial, step to valuing the natural world but also healthier and happier families.

The team at Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) is growing! Meet Sophia our new Publicity Coordinator


Two weeks ago I started as Publicity Co-ordinator at Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales), stepping into the big shoes of Jane Baker who has become the Publicity Co-ordinator for Small Woods.

It was through living in the woods that I came across the fantastic work that Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) are doing. First, I became a member of Small Woods to learn from the experts on how to best tend to our little wood. Through Small Woods I found Coed Lleol and I felt like the organisation was reading my mind! Two and a half years ago I moved to a small woodland plot with a house to renovate. I am loving exploring all the new skills required and the fantastic benefits of living in a wood. I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, as I simply love to learn new things – so this new environment is a wonderland for me.

Daily I feel the benefits of connecting to nature – it calms me when my mind is tired and racing and it provides me with the space to mull things over. Not to mention being the most beautiful venue for all the daft outdoor sports I enjoy. Nature has become a luxury, when perhaps it should be considered a necessity for human physical and mental well-being.

I am so very happy to be Coed Lleol’s new Publicity Co-ordinator, as it has been working for the past 10 years on connecting people to nature and proving it’s benefits. I would like to play a small part in helping to make the wisdom of social prescribing and social forestry ‘the social norm’. To help the organisation get its knowledge and advice ‘out there’ to allow everyone to appreciate the value woodlands offer – environmentally, socially and economically. Having worked in the environmental sector for over 10 years, I hope I can offer the skills and enthusiasm to help make this happen.

When not in the woods I have a penchant for cooking for a crowd, reading, yoga and listening to music. I love anything that takes me outdoors from kayaking, to mountain climbing, to running.

Coed Lleol run community health and wellbeing activities across Wales running projects in: Anglesey; Carmathen; Ceredigion; Flintshire and Denbighshire; Gwynedd; Wrexham; Merythr Tydfil; Neath Port Talbot; Rhondda Cynon Taf and; Swansea.

I am lucky to be starting with lots of brilliant new team members. Meet the rest of the team here.


Small Woods Wales partner woodland takes top awards at Royal Welsh Show

July 2019. Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) partner woodland, Warren Woods in Bodfari in Denbighshire has achieved the accolade of ‘Best Community Woodland in Wales’ in the Welsh National Woodlands Competition 2015-2019. Presented at the 100th Anniversary Royal Welsh Show 2019, this well deserved award recognises significant service to the community.

Home to the Woodland Skills Centre, Warren Woods hosts the Actif Woods Wales programme for Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham, set up by Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales).

The Welsh National Woodlands Competition 2015-2019 gives awards each year in 9 different categories covering young and established woodlands of broadleaf and coniferous trees. In 2016 Warren Woods won the gold medal and first prize for Community Woodland with public access. This year all the regional winners of the last 3 years went head to head to decide the outright National winners, with the Woodland Skills Centre being named the winner in the Community Woodland category.

There was then a further award, sponsored by the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, when all the national winners were considered and one woodland was selected as the best entry of all. This award went to Woodland Skills Centre and Warren Woods.

To coincide, the Woodland Skills Centre has Green Flag Award 2019/2020, and featured on the BBC Radio Wales Country Focus programme (28 July 2019). Press

The Woodland Skills Centre site is in the heart of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and comprises 40 acres of the Warren Woods which are managed for people, wildlife and profit. The site also includes a further 10 acres with arboretum, vineyard, allotments, medicinal herb garden, heritage orchard, wildflower meadows, apiary, polytunnels, tree nursery, workshops and energy-efficient timber-frame buildings.

The Centre is run by a community-owned, not-for-profit Social Enterprise company and holds around 70 courses a year in traditional crafts, art, countryside management and mindfulness. The Centre also runs live music, poetry and drama events and events for children and families. During the week the Centre runs a wide-ranging Social Prescribing programme working with people of all ages with various learning and physical and mental health challenges.

The Centre welcomes the awards as a strong indication that woodlands are not just about timber production but have a big role to play in carbon capture, wildlife, air and water quality, tourism, social events and health and well-being.

(Further details from Woodland Skills Centre. Any photos can be taken from www.woodlandskillscentre.uk or on request from the Centre.)

Canolfan Crefftau’r Goedwig

Woodland Skills Centre

The Warren, Bodfari, Denbigh, LL16 4DT

tel day 01745 710626 – mobile 07711 472033

e-mail enquiries@woodlandskillscentre.co.uk www.woodlandskillscentre.co.uk

Woodland Skills Centre is part of Social Enterprise Company Warren Woods Ltd

Registered in Wales Company number 07176786

Exciting New Projects for 2019


Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) are pleased to announce the development of four exciting new projects in Wales:

  • Dyfi Biosphere Outdoor Health Network
  • Green Health and Access – West Wales
  • Connecting Green Infrastructure – South Wales
  • Lost Peatlands Project – Neath Port Talbot & Rhondda Cynon Taf

These projects will all have a focus on health and wellbeing, and run in addition to our establish programmes (Actif Woods Wales, Connecting People and Nature and Working with Nature). Running in different parts of Wales, key themes will include outdoor nature-based activities,  social prescribing opportunities for local people, increasing biodiversity and working in partnership with communities. For information about each of the projects visit: Projects

Social prescribing woodland project receives new funding to flourish in Wales

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) is pleased to announce that we have been chosen as one of 17 successful projects in Wales to be awarded the Healthy and Active Fund (HAF).

Welsh Government, Sport Wales and Public Health Wales have come together to deliver the first phase of the £5.4m Healthy and Active Fund (HAF) – aiming to improve mental and physical health by enabling the adoption of healthy and active lifestyles across Wales. Phase 1 of the HAF will provide £5.4m of financial support, over a period of 3 years (April 2019 – March 2022), to projects that strengthen and develop community assets.

Money has been awarded to organisations who actively promote and enable healthy activity for one or more of the following groups:

  • Children and young people
  • People with a disability or long-term illness
  • People who are economically inactive or who live in areas of deprivation
  • Older people and those around the age of retirement from work

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services said:

“The projects we are funding seek to reduce inequalities in outcomes and barriers in a variety of ways. From intergenerational approaches to gardening; encouraging families to get active with their new born babies; to increasing physical and social activities for people living in care homes. There are other projects that look to support people with mental health issues to lead independent and long-term active lifestyles, and one that uses sporting memories to help people with dementia.”

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) has 10 years of experience as social forestry experts. The Healthy and Active Fund and Natural Resources Wales funding will enable us to develop our pioneering Actif Woods Wales programme, improving the health and wellbeing of local communities through woodland activities across Wales. Free weekly woodland sessions include physical activities, nutrition and woodland skills for anyone who would benefit from improved health and wellbeing, including adults, children and families (e.g. woodland gym, conservation, bushcraft). We welcome GP referrals for people experiencing low level physical, mental or social issues (e.g. obesity, depression, unemployment, isolation).

In this new phase Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) aims to work closely with community organisations and health and social care networks to co-produce woodland activity programmes and increase understanding of social prescribing. Our hope is that Actif Woods Wales can be replicated in any woodland site in Wales, supported by a new woodland activities code of practice. We also aim to build the capacity of local groups through skill development and training and to help them develop woodland sites as long-term community assets.

Amie Andrews, Project Manager for Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) said:

“This is an exciting time for Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales). As pioneers in the field of social forestry, the Healthy and Active Fund enables us to continue our 10-year legacy helping to improve the health and wellbeing of people across Wales. We hope to inspire communities and healthcare professionals alike with the benefits of social prescribing, caring for ourselves and nature, by getting out and about in the woods.”


Contact Amie Andrews – Project Manager, Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales): amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk l 01654 700061 ext. 22

Healthy and Active Fund Projects – The 17 successful projects are spread across Wales, including the Valleys Task Force area.

  • ‘Actif Woods Wales’ Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales)
  • ‘Sporting Memories’ – Sporting Memories Network CIC
  • ‘Growing Together’ – Keep Wales Tidy
  • ‘Balanced Lives for Care Homes’ – Action for Elders Trust
  • ‘HAPPy’ – National Trust
  • ‘Super-Agers’ – Bridgend County Borough Council
  • ‘West Wales Let’s Walk’ – Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
  • ‘Welsh Active Early Years Programme’ – Early Years Wales
  • ‘Healthy & Active Newport’ – Newport Live
  • ‘Play Ambassadors’ – Play Wales
  • ‘Babi Actif’ – Eryri-Bywiol Cyf
  • ‘Healthy Body – Healthy Mind Project’ – Women Connect First
  • ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ – Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
  • ‘StreetGames’ – Street Games UK Ltd
  • ‘Opening Doors to the Outdoors’ – The Outdoor Partnership
  • ‘Cyfellion Cerdded Cymru’ – Living Streets Cymru
  • ‘BeActive RCT’ – Interlink RCT

Welsh Assembly Member applauds Merthyr Tydfil Nature Project


Anna Stickland is our Project Officer for our Connecting People and Nature (CPAN) programme run by Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales). She runs community activities in the rural wards of Merthyr Tydfil – Bedlinog, Vaynor, Bryngoleu and Gellideg. In this blog she tells us about a recent visit from their local Welsh Assembly Member, Dawn Bowden.

Coed Lleol’s Anna Stickland discusses social prescribing with Dawn Bowden AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Anna says:

Following an exciting Easter packed full of wildlife activities for the community on all our sites, our attentions have returned to our weekly sessions at Gellideg Fields. Every Wednesday we aim to do a mix of conservation work, crafts, green wood work, cooking and foraging, amongst other woodland activities.

We welcome local people to get involved regularly, embracing the unique outdoor spaces we have here and learning to feel confident using their site.  Those who choose to can develop their interests and skills with opportunities to complete OCN accredited training.

Dawn Bowden AM Visit

At the end of April 2019 Dawn Bowden AM, the Welsh Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, came to join on of our outdoor sessions in Gelledig.  Despite the threat of rain, we made good progress tidying up the site and improving the fire pit by building some basic seating around it, in preparation for the following weeks.

Dawn was impressed by the diversity of the site with its open areas, mix of trees, and the stream and gorge running through it.  She also saw the benefit of our work improving people’s health and wellbeing through outdoor activities. We talked about social prescribing and the need for our health service to promote good health, as well as fixing poor health.

Dawn Bowden AM, for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said: “I am pleased to have the chance to join Anna, and her Gellideg fields and woodlands work, as part of Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales), Actif Woods Wales programme. Good for wellbeing, companionship and our environment. New skills, community pride and fun for all ages.”

The programme offers so many benefits to those who come:

Debbie Cobbett, a participant in Gelledig says: “Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) has gifted me a whole three hours of enforced relaxation [today]. Amidst great company we nestle around the fire on a log with a purpose at hand to focus and still our minds. It’s proven to be a highlight of my week, I’ve learnt so many new skills, gained an OCN and made new friends. Thank you Anna, Richard, Carys and All for the all the brilliant engaging activities always something different and always accompanied by a welcome cuppa!!”.

Dawn Bowden AM – Welsh Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Outdoor Community Activities

Connecting People and Nature (CPAN) is run in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, with the following programme:

  • Gellideg Fields – every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm – for 12 weeks (from 17 April). With outdoor activities over half term, including:
  • A bat survey and moth trapping session – at Gelledig Fields on a friday evening.
  • Future activities include:
  • OCN accredited Species ID course – currently running at Parc Taff Bargoed
  • Summer half term activities – at all four sites, Bedlinog, Vaynor, Bryngoleu and Gellideg
  • Taff Fechan outdoor activity programme – begins in Autumn 2019

Previous outdoor programmes run at Nant Llwynog in Bedlinog and Bryngoleu in Aberfan have been similar to those currently running at Gellideg. These have opened up opportunities for previous attendees to go on to volunteer with us and continue to run outdoor activity sessions.

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) also runs the Actif Woods Wales programme in Merthyr Tydfil, with sessions every Tuesday (craft based) and Friday (walking/exercise) in Cyfartha Park. If you would like to get involved or attend any of our sessions in Merthyr Tydfil, please do get in touch. www.coedlleol.org.uk/actif-woods-groups/merthyr-tydfil

Nine Spring Celebration Events for Wales

Spring is on its way, trees are in bud, and our woodlands are coming alive after their winter rest. In Wales this March and April Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) are hosting nine local Spring events to celebrate our thriving Actif Woods Wales programme.

Taking place across Wales, these free events will include woodland workshops, tasty campfire cooking, inspiring stories of change and more. Activities will vary in each local area, and may cover the themes of health and wellbeing, woodland skills and woodland conservation. There will also be an opportunity for individuals and community organisations to share ideas and help shape the future of woodland health and wellbeing activities locally.

We are welcoming people who are already involved in our Actif Woods Wales programme, and those who wish to get involved (e.g. new participants, public health professionals, job centres, carer organisations, woodland managers). Where possible activities will be co-led by Coed Lleol staff, partner organisations and existing Actif Woods Wales participants.

Local Celebration Event Dates:

March 2019

  • Wrexham – 6th
  • Flintshire – 12th
  • Merthyr Tydfil – 14th
  • Gwynedd – 28th
  • Neath Port Talbot – 26th
  • Anglesey – 29th

April 2019

  • Ceredigion – 11th
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf – 5th

Please note our Swansea celebration event took place on 31st January 2019.

To book a place

To book a place – contact a Woodland Mentor in your local area, here: www.coedlleol.org.uk

Actif Woods Wales is an innovative woodland health and wellbeing programme that is changing lives across Wales. We run a wide range of woodland health and wellbeing activities, from bush craft to woodland walks, from conservation to campfire cooking, and foraging to mindfulness and more. Discover new skills, find confidence, exercise, make friends and help to protect our environment. Activities are open to all, but suitable for people who are long term unemployed or economically inactive, have a health condition or are carers.

Small Woods Contribution to Welsh Brexit Debate

Small Woods has contributed to the debate in Wales about how land management support schemes should change following our departure from the EU.

Wales is looking to chart a distinctive course for land based payments after Brexit and this consultation sets out some ideas about how.  The ineffectiveness of CAP schemes has been well rehearsed; however, the raw profitability figures are striking.  Whilst Total Income From Farming (TIFF) in Wales is €274m, the combined value of the current payment schemes is €289m.  The current farming schemes equate to payments in excess of Welsh agriculture’s total profitability.  In summary, the Welsh Government have concluded that:

“The current Basic Payment Scheme has not been a targeted intervention and is in essence a payment for holding land. It is too blunt a lever to improve economic performance, is too poorly targeted to keep farmers on the land and does not contribute sufficiently to our environmental resilience”.

So there is a clear basis for fundamental change.

In the woodland and forestry sector, we have a further issue and that is that the CAP has taken all land management resources, leaving little for forestry support.  The various consultations on the land management schemes in the UK have made it clear that a greater role can be and should be expected for our woodlands.

The Welsh Government proposes phasing out the current Basic Payment Scheme and replacing it with one that is based on two principles “Economic Resilience” and “Public Goods”.

Small Woods has welcomed the consultation and the direction of travel set out by the consultation.  However, we have asked for clarification that the overwhelming focus on farmers in the document does not lead them away from providing support to all land managers on a level playing field.  One of the issues with the previous support regime was that it led farmers to record woodlands as grazing land in order to maximise support; which also reduced natural regeneration, as it led to grazing in woods.

Our response emphasised the importance of hands on support at the local level to help deliver the change that will be required.  As well as making the best use of the local and national support networks that already exist, we suggested using organisations such as The Small Woods Association/Coed Lleol.  We have over 300 woodland owner members and represent over 3000 hectares of woodland across Wales.  We provide Information, Advice and Guidance to woodland owners and could play a very positive role in any advice and facilitation system.  We also work closely with other woodland organisations in Wales and meet regularly with at the Small Woodlands in Wales Working Group, whose members also include Coed Cymru, Llais y Goedwig and the Woodland Trust.

We particularly support the Public Goods argument for public support of land management.  We also support the idea that this should be structured and recommended that the public goods scheme should have a relatively easy access tier to encourage wide participation by land managers; however, the main “rewards” should be reserved to those who are providing higher levels of benefit.   We also encouraged consideration of Coppice restoration, alongside other forms of woodland restoration, such as PAWS.  Although other sorts of woodland restoration have been supported, we would welcome a specific reference to coppice restoration as desirable.  Re-establishing historic coppice management will help increase endangered and declining flora and fauna, such as woodland butterflies and the vascular plants on which they depend.

Our response covered a number of other issues, such as the role of collaboration, the need for long term contracts, the need to ensure that woodland management is given as much encouragement as is planting; and supported the idea that those providing multiple benefits, such as woodlands that are improved through management and whose products are then used in green infrastructure should be given particular support.   Our full response is accessible here.

The original article can be found on the Small Woods website.

Forest Bathing in Gwynedd

By Vikki Mill, Leader for Actif Woods Wales in Gwynedd

Illness and long-term unemployment affects thousands of people every year and can have negative effects on their mental health. By taking people outside and exposing them to nature, letting nature be their healer, Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) is taking steps to improve their wellbeing. 

Through our Actif Woods Wales programme we are reaching those in society who wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to experience how beneficial the woodland environment can be to their health and wellbeing.

Activities such as woodland walks, conservation and woodland management, creative activities such as basket weaving, bushcraft, fire making, foraging and cooking over a fire are just some of the ways we, as woodland leaders, help reconnect people to their more practical and primitive instincts.

Forest Bathing in Gwynedd

Some of the Actif Woods Wales sessions in Gwynedd in Wales are run in collaboration with Tan Y Maen, an organisation that offers support and resources. One of its basic aims is to encourage self-help and mutual support, to encourage people to grow in confidence and to develop new skills or regain old ones.

As a Woodland Leader in Gwynedd, I like to incorporate a simple, 20-minute mindfulness relaxation technique called forest bathing (or Shinrin-yoku in Japanese) at the beginning of every session. It’s accessible to a wide variety of people, making it easy to integrate into the sessions.

The Benefits

Its easy to see why forest bathing has become popular for improving wellness. Scientists in Japan have proven its effects which help to boost the immune system, to fight off infections and diseases. Blood pressure becomes reduced and the stress hormone cortisol decreases, reducing anxiety and depression, improving mood. Within minutes of entering a woodland, breathing becomes slower and the body sweats less. After 20 minutes attention span improves and complicated cognitive tests and puzzles become much easier. It is scientifically proven to help increase energy levels and help to improve sleep patterns. So what does it involve?

How to Forest Bathe

Firstly, before we begin our woodland activities, I invite participants to sit comfortably and quietly in a space where they can look out into the woodland. It is vital to create a supportive and comfortable space in which to sit; forest bathing aims to reintroduce our instincts to nature by slowly absorbing the forest through all the senses, bathing in the full experience of nature. We take the time to simply sit, allowing the mind to relax naturally, noticing and acknowledging the surroundings and breathing deeply. Being guided helps to slow the mind down and focus on the experience. It helps to develop a childlike curiosity in surroundings and opens up potential for learning and exploring an area further.

We begin our 20-minute guided forest bathing session by drawing our attention to the breath, taking deep breaths, calmly absorbing the natural environment, noticing all the aromas given off by the surrounding plants and trees. Absorbing these essential oils has proved to be the most beneficial way to boost the immune system. We then move our attention to movement in the woods, noticing how the wind affects each branch and leaf, observing movement in the animals or insects that might be crawling, flying or buzzing nearby. We focus on what we can hear, listening to the sounds of the natural environment, noticing the rustle of the undergrowth and bird song in the canopy. Feeling the wind, sun or rain on the skin, breathing in the fresh clean air, touching a nearby object, such as a tree, plant, or stone, feeling its texture. We are developing a sense of this place, taking the forest into ourselves, mindfully connecting with the natural world using all the senses.

Afterwards we then approach the woodland environment in a more educational and practical way. With a clear head and a calm mind, participants can be fully engaged with the planned activities. For example, identifying trees can be an overwhelming task for some, but I have found people to be much more receptive after including this simple relaxation practice.

 Find out more about our health and wellbeing programme in Wales at www.coedlleol.org.uk

The full article can be found in the January Issue of the Small Woods Magazine.

Welcome to the Team

Photo: A visual map of ideas and opportunities shared at the Healthy Planet, Healthy Wales conference in Cardiff.

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) welcomes Natasha Simons to the team. She is our new Research and Evaluation Officer. In Natasha’s first blog she tells us a bit about herself, what she has been up to since she began in November, and what she hopes to achieve. Over to you Natasha:

Hello I’m Natasha,

My new role for Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) as Research and Evaluation Officer is to develop new avenues of research with academic partners and other potential partner organisations. I hope that this will provide rich new evidence to support the growth of Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) over time. I will also lead on the evaluation strategy for the organisation and support Small Woods staff and partner organisations with training and facilitation in this area.

Healthy Planet, Healthy Wales

Healthy Planet, Healthy Wales, a Welsh Public Health Conference took place in Cardiff in November. Its central focus was on the drivers of health and well-being that go beyond health care, to include healthy environment, healthy society, healthy economy and healthy community. Delegates from health, housing, education, social care, culture, heritage, technology, business and the third sector were all in attendance to think, network, discuss, generate and share solutions.

I attended the conference in my new role as Research and Evaluation Officer. Luckily, I had consumed my morning coffee because the conference started, ‘Strictly-come-dancing’ style with an interactive dance routine for all delegates! This was followed by an address from the first minister Carwyn Jones. The First Minister spoke eloquently about the connections between health and the environment, employment being the key to a promoting a healthy Wales and the need to put in place early intervention to combat growing mental health challenges, which effect 1 in 4 people in Wales at one stage in their life. Welsh Government’s Decarbonisation and Energy director Prys Davies spoke about improving our environment and our health by reducing meat consumption, improving air quality, reducing social isolation and creating better living conditions in communities. The morning held further presentations on Global Green and Healthy Hospitals and weight management via social prescribing and the National exercise referral scheme (NERS). All presentations related well to Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) and provided a great deal of evidence for the utility of our approach.

In the main hall over our vegan lunch, I engaged in many conversations surrounding health and wellbeing, highlighting the Actif Woods Wales programme and making connections for further research and possible partnerships. The Mental Health Foundation Wales were very enthusiastic about our work, and were interested to explore further how woodland programmes like ours can aid in recovery in people who have just received a mental health diagnosis. They were particularly interested in developing peer to peer learning opportunities that are self-sustaining long-term. The National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research (NCPHWR) and Health and Care Research Wales were also interested in discussing research opportunities further.

The afternoon presentations were centred around creating healthy workplaces. It was interesting to note that the round-table discussion group I was part of, focused on their immediate environment as central to how they feel at work; this extended from the desk they worked at to the surrounding outdoor opportunities that were available to explore during break time and for outdoor meetings. Ongoing throughout the conference a visual map was being drawn by artists from Scarlet Designs. This mapped ideas and opportunities to promote a healthy Wales from the 800 delegates. I added a note about communities working together to look after woodlands that will in turn look after them. The conference was a great introduction for me to the many organisations in Wales working for greater health and wellbeing for all, and I was proud to be there to promote Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) and the Actif Woods Wales programme.

About me

I am an evaluation and visitor studies specialist with a focus on education. During my career I have evaluated a range of projects in different educational settings including: museums; interactive science centres; educational outreach in schools; charities events; and STEM festivals. I completed my PhD in 2016 at The University of Salford and I used the knowledge gained to start-up in evaluation. Originally from London, I have lived in Wales for over 15 years and brought up my two children here. My family and I also own a small 5-acre woodland in Monmouthshire which has opened-up a whole new world of coppicing, chopping and camp cooking to us!

To find out more about Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) research visit: www.coedlleol.org.uk/publications

Human rights and woodland wellbeing


Human Rights Day (Monday 10th December 2018), and Carer’s Rights Day (Friday 30th November 2018) are key milestones every year, when we can all commit to making our world a fairer, more equal place.

The right to equality

The Actif Woods Wales programme run by Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) is changing people’s lives across Wales. Even in 2018 so much of our society still feels marginalised some 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human rights (10th December 1948) was first agreed. At Small Woods we believe that everyone has the right to equality, health and wellbeing, education, work and a full and active role in their community, whatever their circumstances.

Actif Woods Wales is our innovative woodland health and wellbeing programme aimed at adults who are aged over 25 years old who are long term unemployed or economically inactive. It is open to people who either have a work limiting health condition, are a carer or are aged over 54 years. The programme gives people across Wales the chance to find a supportive community, exercise, discover new skills, and renew confidence and wellbeing, while caring for the environment.

The right to health and wellbeing

We all have the right to healthcare and access to support if we are out of work, ill, are a carer or can’t earn a living for reasons outside of our control. Getting out and about in the woods can help with:

  • Stress, depression and anxiety
  • Exercise and weight loss
  • Recovery from brain injury
  • Drug, alcohol abuse and smoking
  • Aging and dementia
  • Isolation and lack of confidence
  • And more.

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) works closely with partner organisations to reach individuals who would most benefit from improved health and wellbeing, such as specialists in:

  • Mental health (e.g. MIND, Hafal)
  • Physical health (e.g. Wales National Exercise Referral Scheme)
  • Medicine, with opportunities for Social Prescribing (e.g. GPs, Health Boards, hospitals)
  • Addiction (e.g. Drug Aid, Drink Wise Age Well)
  • Carer organisations (e.g. Ceredigion Carers)
  • And Housing Associations (e.g. Tai Ceredigion)
  • Employment and Careers (e.g. Job Centres)

The right to education and work

Our Actif Wods Wales programme is the focus of a three-year PhD study by Bangor University, funded by KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships) and the Woodland Trust. Early results are starting to reveal connections with woodland activities, confidence and career building. Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) also works with employment and career guidance organisations to offer empowering learning opportunities through a huge array of woodland activities, including woodland walks, bush craft, conservation, campfire cooking, foraging, mindfulness and more. Plus, there are opportunities to complete OCN accredited courses (e.g. Hand tool use).


Coed Lleol and Carers Rights Day 2018 – 30 Nov 2018

Every year ahead of Human Rights Day is Carers Rights Day on 30th November 2018. In June 2018 new research by Carers UK revealed the toll that caring can take on many carers’ own health and wellbeing. “Almost three quarters (72%) of carers in the UK said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring, while well over half (61%) said their physical health had worsened”.

Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) is offering the opportunity for carer organisations to discover the wonders of our Actif Woods Wales programme for improving carer health and wellbeing. Do you know carers who would like time out to relax? To meet new people and develop new skills? Carers can join us to unwind and have fun in the tranquillity of local woodlands. We have programmes running in Ceredigion, Anglesey, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Merythr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Wrexham. Speak to a local Woodland Mentor and find support for carers in your area: www.coedlleol.org.uk/actif-woods-wales

Ceredigion Carers – Carers Rights Day event – 30 Nov 2018

Carers Rights Day takes place every year in November. Ceredigion County Council’s Carers Unit and partners are running a free event for local carers. Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) will be at the event. Come and chat to us and find out about our new Woodland Wellbeing For Carers programme starting in early 2019, for carers in Ceredigion: Actif Woods Wales Aberystwyth

Friday 30th November 2018, 10.30am – 3.30pm. Free. The Old College, King Street, Aberystwyth, SY23 2AX

Time for a change? Volunteer in the woods


‘Malaysian by birth. Chinese by race. Welsh by location. Nature lover by discovery. Running by choice. What else is there?’

This is Ai-Lin’s Twitter profile. Ai-Lin is an inspiring volunteer leading mindfulness and woodland walking sessions in Merthyr Tydfil with Actif Woods Wales, a woodland health and wellbeing programme run by Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales). Volunteers like her make a significant contribution to this programme, helping to run groups, bringing with them enthusiasm, time and skills. But, why volunteer? There are many different reasons why people from all walks of life decide to volunteer. Here is Ai-Lin’s story.

Time for change

Ai-Lin has lived and worked in Wales for over 16 years. She moved from a stressful career in PR and events in Malaysia to work in the tourism sector in the UK. Then eight years ago she laced up her trainers and did a trail race on Brynna Hill in south Wales and discovered a new vocation. Ai-Lin decided she wanted to ‘inspire and encourage others to get outdoors, to explore, and to feel that sense of well-being and liberation that I have often experienced when I am out in the woods, or on the trails’. And she has certainly done that.

Sharing skills

Volunteers like Ai-Lin have a huge amount to offer. In May 2018 Ai-Lin retrained, completing a Higher National Diploma in Environmental Conservation Management. She now shares her passion for the outdoors, and knowledge of the importance of woodlands, trees, plants and nature with others. She also practices mindfulness meditation, and during woodland sessions is helping people to understand what it means and how it can benefit them. Volunteers have the opportunity to learn new skills to help support the running of sessions, such as hand tool use, woodland skills and social forestry.

 A new career

She has gone on to work for RSPB, volunteer for our Actif Woods Wales programme, lead mindfulness and nature walks for local organisations, and become a Park Warden at Taff Bargoed Park. Ai-Lin says, ‘I would not have thought of venturing to do this if not for Actif Woods Wales. Meeting, volunteering and working with you all has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Thanks so much for setting me on a path!’. What an amazing volunteering journey, taking her into a new career path!

Finding community and confidence

Giving is receiving. Volunteering has given Ai-Lin huge rewards. She says, ‘volunteering is a way of adding a different dimension to my life so that it is not just all about work. It is also an opportunity to meet like-minded people who may enjoy being out in nature as I do, an opportunity to use some of my skills or knowledge to help and inspire others, and to learn new things for myself’. She is now very involved in her local community, has a wider social network and is aware of so many more inspiring community projects than before. ‘Volunteering has also helped me build my own confidence in delivering sessions and speaking to groups about nature. Before this, it had never occurred to me that I could do this!’.

Putting life in perspective

Our Actif Woods Wales programme is helping to make a crucial difference in people’s health and wellbeing according to woodland research by Bangor University. A three-year study by Heli Gittins, PhD Researcher in the School of Natural Sciences, is beginning to reveal connections with woodland activities, confidence and career building. The fact that programme participants are aged over 25, long-term unemployed or economically inactive, and either experiencing a work limiting health condition, are a carer or aged over 54 years, makes these early results even more profound.

Ai-Lin says, ‘It is inspiring to hear stories of how people have over-come mental health issues or how despite personal struggles, people have continued to strife and get better. It has helped me put my own life into perspective. A natural setting like a woodland is a salve for the mind and the soul. It helps people to ‘re-set’ their busy lives. An escape and respite from the hustle and bustle and just feel at peace’.

Finding volunteering opportunities

Coed Lleol welcomes volunteers from all walks of life to volunteer with the Actif Woods Wales programme. Find out more on the Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) website, and contact local staff directly to discover volunteering opportunities in your area: www.coedlleol.org.uk

Book Review: Forest Bathing

25 September 2018

Ian Baker, Chief Executive, Small Woods Association reviews ‘forest bathing’. Is it the next big thing in woodland?

Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li

This book is predicted by some to become a publishing phenomenon, much as Hygge and Norwegian Wood have been in recent years, which it probably deserves as the book and its author Dr Qing Li certainly have much to convey. The book is full of practical and philosophical observations and advice on the benefits of engagement with the forest environment.

Firstly, the theory. Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku is the regular practice of immersion in a forest environment – which might be a better translation – for health and well-being benefits. The practice is said to provide multiple benefits, for instance in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as alleviating physical conditions, such as heart and respiratory disease and cancer. And even where the gains are not so strong, patients feel better about their condition. Forest bathing lifts mood as much as anything else. This book makes the point very well that forest bathing can help improve health and reduce stress by improving sleep and can put you in a better frame of mind. It also shows how the science of forest bathing is being brought out of the forest and can benefit every home and office, as the terpenes (fragrant oils) from which many of the health benefits are gained can be diffused indoors in much the same way they work in the forest. You can literally bottle he goodness. But I am glad to say that the trip to the woods is not made redundant, as it is from forest immersion that the greatest benefits come.

The results quoted are certainly impressive, with measurable improvements quoted across all the conditions examined. One example used that might be of direct relevance is the work that the author quotes from the US Forest Service regarding the effects of emerald ash borer (and the consequent removal of ash trees from American cities). USFS looked at deaths from coronary and respiratory disease and found that significantly more deaths, 15,000 and 6,000 respectively, occurred in areas where ash trees had been removed. There are perhaps lessons in this work for how we regard the loss of our own trees, particularly in urban areas (and especially for the brutal Sheffield street tree removal programme). This analysis may lead to the conclusion that although the streets may be easier to clean, people may have shorter lives to enjoy their cleanliness.

Dr Li takes care to ensure that examples are drawn from across the world, which helps to broaden its relevance beyond its origins in Japan. However, there are still aspects of the work that could be said to be so rooted in Japanese culture that they would be hard to translate, given the significance of Japan’s forests to Shinto Buddhism and how that informs Japanese art, design and architecture.

A couple of small niggles. Given that the book is as much about the scientific basis of forest bathing as its practice, the fact that frequent references are made to research that are unreferenced is a shortcoming. This is clearly an editorial decision to ensure the text is not cluttered with endless footnotes. However, it means that assertions made cannot be verified. The fact that there are no mentions that forests can be difficult and unwelcoming environments also might lead people to underestimate the reality that these challenges do exist. Nevertheless, Shinrin-Yoku and Dr Qing’s insights have a great deal to recommend them.

Ian Baker

Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li is published by Penguin Life, price £12.99.

This book review was featured in Small Woods Magazine (Summer 2018,  Issue 71, p24), the membership magazine for Small Woods Association.

Woodland theatre comes to RSPB Ynys-Hir

Guest post: 13 September 2018

Tree & Wood / Coed & Pren

Hydref 4ydd-7fed / October 4th – 7th 2018, 7.30pm.

RSPB Ynys-Hir Nature Reserve. Machynlleth


Tree and Wood is a new outdoor, immersive performance by Jony Easterby, in collaboration with singer song writers Nathaniel Mann, Emily Williams, Sound Designer Matthew Olden alongside musicians Pippa Taylor, Pete Flood and Sam Robinson.

The work encompasses physical performance, sound and light installation, and songs both old and new. Set in the forest at dusk to dark, it  explores the immediate tangible experience of trees – smell, touch, sounds, using the forest as its backdrop. It invites participants of all ages to take a journey into the heart of the forest, wrapped in darkness and branches to explore our relationship over time with the trees and woods for which we depend on for our survival both past and present.

Set in the forest at the onset of darkness the audience are invited to move through the trees to find themselves exploring a montage of image sound, light and song.

Jony Easterby brings a year of research and experimentation to the development of ‘Tree and Wood’, supported by a Creative Wales Award  and production grant from the Arts Council of Wales and Oxford Contemporray Music (OCM).

This research has been developed along eight historical narrative themes – Arcadia, The Cut, The Greenwood Tyrant, Strangely like War, Industrialisation, Deforestation, Return to Eden, Sylviculture.

Tickets available from: Aberystwyth Arts Centre (www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk) and Deco Shop Machynlleth (in person).


Bangor University study reveals interesting results

6 September 2018

Under tall tree canopies in Wales there are people enjoying woodland walks, campfire cooking, outdoor crafts, conservation and mindfulness activities. And the difference this is making to their lives is tangible.

Early results from a three-year study by Bangor University are revealing the positive impact on health and wellbeing when people get out and about in the woods. The study by Heli Gittins based on Actif Woods Wales programme run by Coed Lleol, (Small Woods Wales) is revealing interesting findings.

Heli Gittins, PhD Researcher, School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University, said:

“Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Actif Woods Wales research – it has been truly wonderful meeting you all and visiting all the different projects. I’ve been pond dipping at Ynys-Hir nature reserve in Ceredigion where we found a newt, eating campfire chilli wraps at Skewen in Neath Port Talbot and learning about how the brain works and doing some mindfulness practice at Cyfarthfa Park in Merthyr Tydfil, to name but a few!”

Baseline questionnaires, follow up interviews and focus groups with 95 participants so far are beginning to show connections with woodland activities, confidence and career building. The fact that programme participants are aged over 25, long-term unemployed or economically inactive, and either experiencing a work limiting health condition, are a carer or aged over 54 years, makes these early results even more profound. The PhD study also highlights the key role of professional mentorship by Coed Lleol staff who run Actif Woods Wales programmes on behalf of Small Woods in Wales.

Amie Andrews, Coed Lleol Manager, said:

Coed Lleol are proud to support woodland wellbeing research by Bangor University at a crucial time when GP interest in social prescribing is growing. Woodlands offer tangible and life-changing benefits to all, including nurturing confidence, community, exercise and skill development, particularly to those with work limiting health conditions. We hope that this research will help us to develop our programme, offer opportunities for future partnership and crucially change people’s lives through woodland activities.”

Research on the benefits of taking a dose of nature are well established. However, how woodland programmes impact on people’s longer-term behaviour and habits around independent use of the countryside is less well known. With expert guidance from Bangor University’s Schools of Natural Sciences (Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones) and Psychology (Dr Val Morrison), this study aims to reveal new knowledge. The study also hopes to inform organisations such as the Woodland Trust, woodland owners and health agencies about promoting the use of woodlands to increase the well-being of the nation.

Christine Tansey, Research and Evidence Co-ordinator at the Woodland Trust, said.

“Heli Gittins’ research is of great interest to the Woodland Trust. Our goal is to see a UK rich in woods and trees for people and wildlife, and this research partnership with Coed Lleol will help improve our understanding of the ways in which people can benefit from woodland. Evidence from this study will also reveal how the independent use of woods may change through participating in woodland activities, information which we can use to inform our work.

This study is funded by KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships) and the Woodland Trust. It was first introduced in the Small Woods Magazine in Summer 2017, on page 5 (click photo below to open pdf). Research will finish in October 2019 when a report with become available.

Find out more about woodland health and wellbeing research.

Small Woods Magazine (Summer 2017, p5): Woods and well-being – research sets out to measure benefits.


Vote for Actif Woods Aberystwyth to bag a share of Tesco’s bag fund


21 August 2018

Actif Woods Aberystwyth is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative, with grants of £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 raised from carrier bag sales in Tesco stores. Three community projects in every Tesco region have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant.

Actif Woods Aberystwyth is one of the groups on the shortlist. The programme helps adults in Ceredigion to improve their health and wellbeing through woodland activities. It is part of the Actif Woods Wales programme which is run across Wales by Coed Lleol, the Small Woods Association in Wales. Activities include woodland walks, bushcraft, conservation, campfire cooking, foraging, mindfulness and more. Adults qualify to take part in if they are aged 25 + and long-term unemployed or economically inactive, AND a carer, experiencing a health condition or aged over 54. There are three woodland groups in Ceredigion:

  • Woodland Walkers (Wednesdays),
  • MIND Aberystwyth Woodland Group (Thursdays)
  • Tai Ceredigion housing scheme sessions (Fridays)

To find out more and get involved visit: www.coedlleol.org.uk/actif-woods-groups/aberystwyth

Amie Andrews, Coed Lleol Manager said: ‘Woodlands offer tangible benefits to all, particularly people with work limiting health conditions. Actif Woods Aberystwyth supports woodland health and wellbeing activities for adults that nurture community, confidence, skill development, exercise and environmental awareness. Crucially these woodland opportunities change people’s lives’.

Voting is open in all Tesco stores in from Saturday 1st September to Wednesday 31st October 2018 and customers will cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop. Vote for Actif Woods Aberystwyth in the following Aberystwyth Tesco Stores:

Aberystwyth North Parade Express SY23 2JN:  www.tesco.com/store-locator/uk/?bid=4465
Aberystwyth Superstore SY23 1PB: www.tesco.com/store-locator/uk/?bid=4630

Tesco’s Bags of Help project, supported by Groundwork, has already delivered over £56 million to more than 16,000 projects across Britain. Alec Brown, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“Bags of Help has been a fantastic success and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from customers. It’s such a special scheme because it’s local people who decide how the money will be spent in their community. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see these come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp.

Spread the word. Download the poster and share!


We are recruiting! Join the Coed Lleol team

21 August 2018

Coed Lleol and Actif Woods Wales

Research and Evaluation Officer
South Wales Coordinator

Two exciting opportunities promoting people’s health and wellbeing through woodland activities.
Research and Evaluation Officer £24,530 pro rata 1.5 days per week
South Wales Coordinator £24,530 pro rata 2 days per week
Deadline for both roles: 9am 17th September, Interviews early October
For further information and applications see: www.coedlleol.org.uk/about-us/jobs 

Coed Lleol a Choed Actif Cymru

Swyddog Ymchwil a Gwerthuso
Cydlynydd De Cymru

Dau gyfle cyffrous yn hyrwyddo iechyd a llesiant pobl drwy weithgareddau coetir.
Swyddog Ymchwil a Gwerthuso £24,530 pro rata 1.5 diwrnod yr wythnos
Cydlynydd De Cymru £24,530 pro rata 2 ddiwrnod yr wythnos
Dyddiad cau ar gyfer y ddwy swydd: 9yb 17eg Medi, Cyfweliadau dechrau mis Hydref
Am ragor o wybodaeth a ffurflenni cais, ewch i: www.coedlleol.org.uk/about-us/jobs

Social Forestry Development Tender opportunity with Coed Lleol

Tender for development of Social Forestry learning pathway focusing on the Social Forestry community on Anglesey

Coed Lleol are pleased to announce we have been awarded funds to develop Social Forestry Learning pathways, with an Anglesey focus.
We are looking for someone to help with this work, as a short term contract – details are in the document you can download here:

SF Tender document – English (pdf).

Tendr CC – Cymraeg (pdf)

The development project needs to be completed by the end of March 2017. The budget for this work is £4.5K

To apply for this opportunity please put together (in Welsh or English) a delivery proposal, timescales and how you would incorporate an Anglesey focus, in a minimum of 500 words. Also include your skills and experience in this area of work; you can submit a longer application if you wish.

For any questions and to apply please send an email to amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk
The deadline to apply for the tender is midday on Monday 13th February.

Job vacancy with Actif Woods Neath Port Talbot & Swansea

Neath Port Talbot and Swansea Woodland Activities Mentor and Working with Nature events coordinator – Maternity cover

An opportunity has arisen for a maternity cover post for the Actif Woods Wales Woodland Mentor for Neath Port Talbot and Swansea. The job description below also includes the Working with Nature Events Coordinator role; the aim is to recruit one person for both jobs but alternative options will be considered.

Details and the application form can be found on the jobs page HERE. The deadline for applications is Thursday 3rd November at 5pm.

Job vacancy with Actif Woods Gwynedd!

Gwynedd Woodland Activities Mentor – IMPORTANT NOTICE: If anyone tried to submit an application for this post between 3pm Weds 29th June and 11am today (Thursday 30th June), please contact us (01654 700061) as there were some technical problems with our email during this time – thanks!

An opportunity has arisen for a Woodland Mentor for Gwynedd, a new project area for Actif Woods Wales. Deadline for applications is Thursday 30th June at 11am. Applications are welcomed by application form in English or Welsh. For more details contact amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk

Gwynedd Mentor Job Advert – English ac Cymraeg

Gwybodaeth Cymraeg

Swydd Ddisgrifiad Coed Actif Cymru Gwynedd

SWA job application form – Gwynedd Woodland activity Mentor (Cymraeg)

Information in English

Actif Woods Wales Gwynedd Mentor role description

SWA Job application form – Gwynedd Woodland mentor (English)

Stories of Change in Treherbert

The pop up shop in Treherbert that the Actif Woods Wales project there has been involved with as part of the Stories of Change project was open over the summer, with 50/60 people attending each day, contributing and listening to stories about energy use and the future of the area. This project brings together people from a range of disciplines across several universities to work with stories – in those case Stories of Everyday Change. See the link to the blog below for more info.



Merthyr Woodland Taster Day

Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the Actif Woods Wales taster day at Cyfartha castle on Thursday 10th September. The sun shone on a lovely day and it was fantastic to meet so many people with an interest in health and wellbeing through woodland activities. The Merthyr webpage is HERE and the facebook page (where you can see photos from the day) is here: Merthyr facebook page


Stakeholder days in Gwynedd and Flintshire!

Stakeholder meeting date announced for Gwynedd (one of the new area we’re hoping to bring Actif Woods Wales to next year), to be held in Caernarfon on the 8th July.

Also Flintshire (another hopeful new area for Actif Woods Wales) on the 26th July at Wepre Park, Connagh’s Quay.

Contact amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk to book your free place for either day. There will also be meetings in all existing areas of the project too. All welcome!

Gwynedd poster:

CaernarfonTaster day poster_EnglishCaernarfonTaster day poster_Cymraeg

Agenda for Stakeholder Workshop Gwynedd_CymraegAgenda for Stakeholder Workshop Gwynedd_English

Flintshire poster:

Flintshire Taster day poster EngFlintshire Taster day poster Cymraeg

Social Forestry OCN Course to run in Denbighshire in June

The Social Forestry OCN course will explore the use of woodlands to promote social and human wellbeing, and will this time be offered at the Woodland Skills Centre in Denbighshire, in June. It will be accredited by OCN (3 credits at level 3).

For further information contact Kate Hamilton (Coed Lleol) katehamilton@smallwoods.org.uk 08454 560342
Subsidised places may be available to current Social Forestry practitioners by negotiation – please contact Kate if you wish to discuss this.

Social Forestry OCN course June 2015_bilingual flyer

Eng p1Eng p2

Cymraeg p1Cymraeg p2

RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards to showcase Wales

The Royal Forestry Society RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards will be in Wales for 2015 with woodland owners and managers across Wales being invited to enter six categories, with cash prizes available.

Among them is a special award, Woodland Creation Excellence, being sponsored by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for woodlands between 1-10-years-old. To enter, woodland must have been planted to achieve one or more ecosystem services objectives – from timber, water quality or biomass to biodiversity and resilience.

There are four additional categories covering a range of woodlands managed for differing objectives:

·         Duke of Cornwall (Multipurpose award)
·         RFS Silviculture
·         Small Woodland
·         Community Forest

In addition, a Schools Award is open to educational organisations from nurseries to sixth forms involved in projects that incorporate woodland management, timber and its uses in their learning.

Deadline for entries is Friday 6 March 2015.

The Awards will be presented in July at the RFS’s magnificent Coast Redwoods woodlands in Leighton near Welshpool, the Charles Ackers Redwood Gove and Naylor Pinetum. There is a top prize of £1000 in each category and runners up prizes of £500 are up for offer.

For more details see http://www.rfs.org.uk/awards/rfs-excellence-in-forestry-awards

Jack Whitaker Jack Whittaker, RFS President

Actif Woods Wales in the national press this weekend

Following a visit from a journalist and photographer to the Actif Woods Neath Port Talbot group the article will be out in the Telegraph this weekend – so go and have a look in your local newsagent if you’d like to see the group featured in the national press! (we will post an electronic link on here after it is published). Below are a few photos from the day as a taster.

Tea break NPT woodworking group IMG-20150113-WA0014

Press coverage of Autumn seminar

Here’s a short piece on the Aberystwyth Autumn seminar that was featured in the Cambrian News the following week.
The final in our series of local seminars is due to be held in Angelsey on Friday the 6th March – watch this space for more details soon!


First Aid in the Outdoors Course in Machynlleth

For anyone from the Aberystwyth or Machynlleth areas or nearby there are a couple of places left on our woodland based first aid in the outdoors course near Machynlleth – 2nd, 5th and 12th December. Open to all – you don’t have to be part of the Actif Woods Wales project. £120 for the 3 days. Contact Jo for more details or to book a place. It will be a hands on, outdoor, practical experience leading to two qualifications; Emergency First Aid in the Workplace and Outdoor and Forestry First Aid.

First aid in the outdoors Dec 2014

First aid in the outdoors Dec 2014-page-0

Autumn Seminars are happening!

Our series of sem­i­nars are starting this Tuesday to update on the project at the mid point of its cur­rent phase, pre­sent­ing the results of the eval­u­a­tion to date (also in con­junc­tion with Cardiff Met uni­ver­sity) and look to the future, and sus­tain­abil­ity after 2016, when cur­rent fund­ing will come to an end. Also with a chance to see prac­ti­cal activ­ity demon­stra­tions in each area. Let Jo know if you’d like to come to any of these (free) events, as there are still a few places available — agendas can be downloaded from the links below.

Aberystwyth — 4th November
Aberystwyth Actif Woods Wales Autumn Seminar agenda – Nov 4th 2014

Treherbert and Neath Port Talbot joint seminar – 7th November, in Treherbert
Autumn Seminar agenda – Nov 7th 2014 – Treherbert

Wrexham — 14th November
Wrexham Actif Woods Wales Autumn Seminar agenda – Nov 14th 2014

Anglesey – Spring 2015

As Anglesey started later than the other areas a seminar will be held in the Spring 2015, which will be the mid point of that project

Volunteer opportunity in Aberystwyth

We are looking to recruit a volunteer to work with our existing Actif Woods Wales woodland activity group in Aberystwyth (with a possibility of progressing to an assistant leader). This will be a great chance to gain experience and skills in working in the outdoors with people with a range of health conditions. The group currently meet weekly for 2-3 hours on Wednesdays (see current group information) and travel to different woodlands around Aberystwyth for health and wellbeing walks and a range of woodland activities. These can include nature ID, conservation work, outdoor cooking and crafts. More details about the Actif Woods Wales project are attached, and the group can be seen in action in the short film here:
The successful person will need to undergo a DBS check, paid for by Small Woods. Training and development opportunities will be available.
We may also have some volunteer opportunities with other newer groups forming in the Aberystwyth area.

To apply for this voluntary post please complete the application form below and return it to jocooper@smallwoods.org.uk by the 16th October. do let anyone who could be interested know about this. Thanks!

Job Advert – Aberyswyth volunteer

Volunteer role description – English version

Volunteer Application Form

Autumn seminars in all project areas

Coed Lleol will be holding a series of seminars this autumn to update on the project at the mid point of its current phase, presenting the results of the evaluation to date (also in conjunction with Cardiff Met university) and look to the future, and sustainability after 2016, when current funding will come to an end. Also with a chance to see practical activity demonstrations. Let Jo know if you’d like to come to any of these (free) events – agenda from the link below.

  • Anglesey – 14th October
  • Aberystwyth – 4th November
  • Treherbert and Neath Port Talbot joint seminar – 7th November
  • Wrexham – 14th November

Actif Woods Wales Autumn Seminars 2014 – bilingual

Actif Woods Wales Aberystwyth groups on film!

On a sunny July day NRW film maker Luke Maggs came to document the two longstanding Actif Woods groups in Aberystwyth – the open Wednesday group, and the MIND Aberystwyth group.

The resulting video below was the outcome:

We hope you agree this short film really gives a flavour of what these two groups in Aberystwyth get up to, and how it works for participants.

NRW have also asked for the following text to accompany it everywhere we share this:

Music from: bensound.com
The Actif Woods Wales Project was brought to you by:
* Collaboration & partnership working (public and third sector)
* A clear focus on identified need (and being run in areas of greatest need)
* Longer term investment, and
* Outcomes monitoring to support this way of working
naturalresourceswales.gov.uk & coedlleol.org.uk
To find out more about this project specifically please contact:
Amie Andrews (Project Coordinator) amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk
Jo Cooper (Assistant Coordinator) jocooper@smallwoods.org.uk
Kate Hamilton (Training and Research) katehamilton@smallwoods.org.uk

The first year of the new phase of Actif Woods Wales

It’s been a busy year for Actif Woods Wales, with recruitment of staff and volunteers, development of our Monitoring and Evaluation system, as well as setting up groups and activities to meet the health needs of participants and partner organisations on the ground.  We’ve learnt a huge amount as well as having some challenging moments, and plenty of good ones too! Here are the Actif Woods Wales reports.  The Year 1 report gives a summary of our main achievements from April 2013 – March 2014.  The project summary outlines the main partners we are working with in each area at this moment in time – this will be updated quarterly.

Actif Woods Wales Year 1 Report

Actif Woods Wales summary – May 2014_bilingual

Please do contact us if you have any questions, suggestions or comments.  amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk

New Introduction to Social Forestry course offered by Coed Lleol

We are proud to announce we are launching a new Introduction to Social Forestry course, which will be offered for the first time in September 2014. It has been developed through a collaborative process convened by Coed Lleol and will be accredited by OCN (3 credits at level 3).

This exciting new course will explore the use of woodlands to promote social and human wellbeing, and is initially being offered at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth.

Participants will be given the tools to start applying Social Forestry ideas in practice and it will be delivered within a woodland setting, using a range of participatory and reflective learning methods, to build on existing skills and develop new ones.

More details are on the flyer, which can be downloaded from this link, or viewed by clicking the pictures below:
Social Forestry OCN flyer

To book  visit the Small Woods booking page for OCN in social forestry

For further information contact Kate Hamilton (Coed Lleol) katehamilton@smallwoods.org.uk 08454 560342
Subsidised places may be available to current Social Forestry practitioners by negotiation – please contact Kate if you wish to discuss this.

Flyer page 1Flyer page 2

New Local Project Officers

A warm welcome to Anna Stickland, who has taken over from Ceri Nicholas in Treherbert.


In Anglesey John Pritchard, currently part of the Let’s Walk Cymru team, will be starting work as local project officer for Anglesey in
January 2014.

Meet the team

It can be good to put a name to a face so here are the current Coed Lleol team (from left to right)

Coed Lleol team photo

Maggie Elsey (Neath Port Talbot local officer), Ceri Nicholas (Treherbert local officer), Richard Davies (Natural Resources Wales link person), Amie Andrews (project coordinator), Jo Cooper (Assistant coordinator), Kate Hamilton (Reserch officer), Anne Brenchley (Wrexham local officer), Phil Tidey (Small Woods Association manager)

New monitoring system coming next month!

Research and evaluation is an important part of the Actif Woods Wales project.

For the last two months Kate Hamilton has been working on developing a new, more user friendly system for this.

A major aim of the new system was to use methods that were medically accepted, in the hope that our findings could possibly be incorporated into larger studies, with a bigger number of participants than we have (all anonymously of course!)

Also in response to feedback from participants and activity leaders to make it more user friendly and something that could be useful for the participants to track their progress, or just provide a space to say how they are doing.

New forms have already been trialled in some groups and will be coming soon to all Actif Woods groups- watch this space!

New posters and postcards available!

A new set of postcards and posters have been produced to help spread the word about Actif Woods Wales.

They can be downloaded from the links below, ready to email to people- or if you ask us we can probably send you some to give out too.


Coed Lleol poster Wednesday Actif Woods group_bilingual

Coed Lleol poster Thursday Actif Woods MIND group_bilingual


Coed Lleol poster Treherbert gym group_bilingual


Coming soon!

Neath Port Talbot

Coming soon!

New project officers appointed in Wrexham, Neath Port Talbot and Treherbert

A big welcome to Anne Brenchley (Wrexham), Maggie Elsey (Neath Port Talbot) and **** (Treherbert) who have all just started work as local project officers for the Actif Woods Wales project.

Do get in touch with them if you’re interested to know more, or have any ideas for the Actif Woods project in those areas.

Wrexham and Neath Port Talbot are new project areas so possible groups and activities are very much up for discussion at the moment.

They can be reached at the following contacts:

Anne Brenchley

Anne photo

07530 761743

Maggie Elsey

Maggie photo


**** – t.b.c.